Habitat for Humanity OC Gives Back With Playhouse Decorating Contest

Habitat for Humanity Orange County poses around the 20 completed playhouses at the City National Grove. Photos by Nikki Nelsen

Disney, City National Bank, and 18 other companies teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to give back to the community. Using hammers, drills and buckets of paint, workers participated in a playhouse-building contest at the City National Grove in Anaheim on Oct. 5.

This is the first time the Habitat for Humanity competition was held in Orange County. The previous year’s contest, held in San Diego, produced five playhouses, but this year, there were 20.

“We cannot fit 200 people at a building site, and you cannot bring kids onto our construction sites. Here, we have kids, families and the folks who have been working hard since 8 a.m.,” said Chris Baiocchi, vice president of Fund Development at Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. “They get to see not only the work they do, but also the work of all the other teams.”

The teams had their designs planned out for weeks so that Habitat for Humanity OC could approve the designs. Though many were excited about the build, teams could not get to work until the day of the event.

Each five-person team had five hours to construct and accessorize the houses to fit the approved theme. The wood to build the structures was provided, and holes had been cut out for doors and windows. Groups could purchase decorations separately, but each team had to ensure the completed playhouse would be easy to transport.

As Habitat employees told teams the five-minute window had approached, last-minute touches were quickly added.

With five minutes remaining, an employee from the Disneyland Resort rushed to add a last coat of paint. Photo by Nikki Nelsen

“I definitely underestimated how many coats of paint we were going to need on some things. We were feeling a little bit under the gun,” said Casey Haack, a Cox Communications community-relations specialist. “We still have a few things to finish, and since we are raffling ours, I want to make it nice for them.”

Once the playhouses were completed, members of the public were allowed to not only check out the structures, but also participate in a silent auction to win select structures.

Everything from lights to picture frames and even a kids’ play kitchen from Ikea were used. Photo by Nikki Nelsen

The First American Team created a Super Mario Bros.-themed house that included a doorbell that played the game’s theme song when pushed and detailed paintings of Mario and Bowser in scenes from different levels.

“Mario is carried out through many generations—even kids today play Super Mario,” said team member Brian Park. “We chose to do the first Super Mario Bros. because if it were new, clean and modern, then it would be like everyone else.”

Sachitha Chandrasenan brought her son to the build; he so loved the Mario playhouse, for which his mom painted the large-scale images of Mario, that he stayed inside it during the judging phase. Luckily for him, the artist won the playhouse in the auction. 

Woody’s Playhouse won a house-shaped trophy for being the best overall entry. Photo by Nikki Nelsen

The Disneyland Resort won first place overall for its Toy Story house, which featured a wooden cutout of Sheriff Woody, bubbles and a colorful indoor ball pit.

Awards for teamwork, creativity, construction and design were given out. Among the top winners were the Mackenzie Corporation, Raintree Partners, LBA Realty and Pacific Mercantile.

Beyond the contest, the playhouses had a more significant meaning, as they were crafted to provide playtime spaces for Orange County children.

Twelve of the playhouses were auctioned off, raising more than $53,000; the funds will aid Habitat for Humanity in its mission to help people in need. Three others were gifted to patients at the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation and Family Promise.

The remaining five playhouses are up for sale at Habit OC Restores in both Anaheim and Santa Ana. The stores sell everything you would find at a hardware store, but items are secondhand.

Baiocchi said the event was a huge success. “Habitat has such a big job to build affordable housing in Orange County,” he said. “It is great to bring people together to have fun and raise money for our mission and to support creativity and childhood.”

Little houses, ready for play. Photo by Nikki Nelsen

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